I was surprised that we didn’t hear a lot more from Bobbie Gentry in the early 70s. After“Ode To Billie Joe,” the success of her singles in America never really happened for her.
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She was a very talented songwriter, better than she is given credit for. So, I decided to take a closer look at one of thevery bestBobbie Gentry songs, so join me on my journey to find the meaning behind the song lyrics“Fancy”by Bobbie Gentry.
- A New Kid On The Block
- The UK Audience
- An Early Life That Had An Impact On The Song
- Another Early Influence
- Another Career?
- The Meaning Behind the Song Lyrics “Fancy” by Bobbie Gentry
- Tragedy Or Necessity?
- The Locket
- Back ToRuby Gentry
- The Message In The Song
- Want To Learn The Meaning Behind More Famous Songs?
- The Meaning Behind the Song Lyrics “Fancy” by Bobbie Gentry – Final Thoughts
A New Kid On The Block
To a certain extent, that is what she was when she announced her arrival on the scene in 1967. She was doing what few other female singers were doing at the time – writing and recording her own songs.
“Ode To Billie Joe” was her second single and one that brought her international recognition. But, perhaps more to the point, it established her as a very good songwriter. She told a story in the song that twisted one way and then another. Intertwined with that were the behaviors of the family and those acting out the tragedy. Very clever songwriting and a well-put-together song.
The UK Audience
Whilst she found things hard in America at times, the UK seemed to appreciate her more. “Ode To Billie Joe” had reached #13 in the UK and had a Top 10 in five other countries. Bobbie was given her own TV show in 1968 on BBC London. She followed that up with a #1 in the UK with“I’ll Never Fall In Love Again“.
An Early Life That Had An Impact On The Song
Bobbie’s parents divorced when she was very young, and her mother sent her to live with her grandparents. Her mother was also a singer and moved to California to try and get work. Naturally, her grandparents did their best, but she lived on a farm with no plumbing and no electricity. She was stuck in a poverty trap, which would certainly influence her songwriting.
Her grandmother traded a cow for her first piano to give her a taste of music at home. She spent some time with her father as well, which is when she learned to play the guitar.
Another Early Influence
Bobbie was born with the surname Streeter but changed it to Gentry. She chose that name after she saw a film calledRuby Gentry. A tale about a poor but beautiful young farm girl who marries the town’s rich tycoon. It might be worth remembering that storyline for later.
She had gone to live with her mother, who had remarried. After high school, she enrolled at UCLA to study Psychology. Something she would continue after music. Bobbie also attended the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music. There she studied music theory, arranging, and composition. Not bad for a young girl who, a few years before, had lived without any electricity.
To pay for all this, she took singing jobs in local clubs. One night, Bobbie Gentry was seen by Bob Hope, who tried to convince her of her obvious talent and to work at her music. At this time, she was writing with the hope she could just write songs for others. But, events took a turn when she signed with Capitol in 1967.Bobbie Gentry’s first single, “Ode To Billie Joe,” brought instant success.
This brief outline ofBobbie Gentry’s backgroundis important to comprehend. Some of the things going on almost certainly had an impact onBobbie Gentry’s songwriting and subject matter. Especially with her song“Fancy“.
The Meaning Behind the Song Lyrics “Fancy” by Bobbie Gentry
Time now to take a look atthe meaning of “Fancy” by Bobbie Gentry. She wrote the song, and it was included in her 1970 album,Fancy. Gentry’s version was released before the album in 1969, and it reached #31 in America. The song was alsocovered by American Country singer Reba McEntire.
Tragedy Or Necessity?
Thestory of Bobbie Gentry’s song “Fancy”is that of a young 18-year-old girl named Fancy from New Orleans. She is sent away to be a prostitute by her ailing and terminally ill mother. Then, Fancy is given a red satin dress and told this might be her only chance to get out of poverty.
It doesn’t seem to take her very long to realize what she must do to earn money. She decides that she isn’t going to do this just to survive. Instead, she is going to make a good life for herself.
Unlike so many in her situation, she gets lucky and is given a home by a wealthy man. She talks about how she charmed a king. Also a Congressman and an occasional aristocrat.
It would appear that she had learned how to succeed…
She talks about her “Georgia mansion” and a “New York Townhouse flat.” For some reading this, you might be aware that this is a life situation that even today is quite common. The sad truth is that in some countries, it is also a necessity to survive, just as it was for Fancy, quite an indictment on our alleged modern society.
So, is it a tragedy or a necessity? The answer is probably both. For some, it is a necessity, and that is the tragedy of the situation. Fancy, though, decides that she is not going to spend her life in shame.
Her mother had given her a locket with a message inside telling her to be true to herself. As I read it, the mother knew she was dying and wanted something better for her daughter. And she knew how she could get it.
The red satin dress was the way she could achieve it. And the locket is a reminder about herself. The song ends with Fancy acknowledging it was her mother who had freed her from poverty. That, and a little help from a red satin dress.
Of course, there will always be self-righteous critics. Those who will put down Fancy and others like her. Most of those that do have very little reason to take their hypocritical moral stand. They are doing stuff that is probably worse.
Back ToRuby Gentry
I mentioned earlier that the film that gave her the professional name ‘Gentry’ had mirrored her own life in some ways. Like the character in the film, she had also grown up in the South in poverty. Her mother left her in the care of her grandparents, and she married early to a wealthy man, possibly searching for some financial security. That marriage was before she became known and ended less than a year later.
While Gentry never turned to prostitution, she would have been well aware of what hardship can do to you. And, of course, how hard it is to escape it.
The Message In The Song
There is a certainfeeling of feminism in this song. It carries some very profound and powerful statements. Especially those that decry the hypocrisy surrounding what Fancy is having to do to survive.
It is just as important, though, that she survives it all and flourishes in life. Something her mother would have been very proud to see if she had lived.
Want To Learn The Meaning Behind More Famous Songs?
If so, check out our thoughts on theMeaning Of The Song “Vienna” By Billy Joel,The Meaning Behind “Daniel” by Elton John and Bernie Taupin,The Meaning Behind “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” By Tom Petty,The Meaning Behind “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond, and theMeaning Behind “In The Air Tonight” by Phil Collinsfor more excellent song analysis.
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The Meaning Behind the Song Lyrics “Fancy” by Bobbie Gentry – Final Thoughts
In my opinion, “Ode To Billie Joe” was one of the great stories to come out of music in the 60s. “Fancy” is another one. I sense that we didn’t get to hear what Bobbie Gentry might have been capable of if she had put her mind to it.
Great songwriting storytellers are hard to come by. But she wanted other things in her life, and that is to be respected. She has left us with this song, though, and it is a classic of its genre with a big message.
Until next time, happy listening.
5/5 - (131 votes)
What is the meaning behind the song Ode to Billy Joe? ›
It tells of a rural Mississippi family's reaction to the news of the suicide of Billie Joe McAllister, a local boy to whom the daughter (and narrator) is connected. The song received widespread attention, leaving its audience intrigued as to what the narrator and Billie Joe threw off the Tallahatchie Bridge.Did Billy Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge? ›
As a family talks about the death of their neighbor Billie, the song juxtaposes the severity of death with the lighthearted nature of a casual dinner conversation. “Today, Billy Joe MacAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge.What did Billie Joe throw off the Tallahatchie Bridge? ›
They seem like arbitrary inventions of the filmmakers, but they're the closest thing the song has to an official “solution”: In the movie, Billy Joe tosses his girlfriend Bobbie Lee's rag doll off the bridge and jumps the following day, tormented by uncertainty over his sexual identity.Who really wrote Ode to Billy Joe? ›
“Ode to Billie Joe,” written and recorded by Bobbie Gentry in 1967, is an elegy that became a hit in many countries, knocking “All You Need Is Love” and “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band” out of the number one spot on the charts. The song and album won three Grammys.What tragic story does the ballad Ode to Billie Joe by folk artist Bobbie Gentry tell? ›
This song tells the story of the fictional Billie Joe McAllister, who kills himself by jumping off the Tallahatchie Bridge. There really is a Tallahatchie Bridge in Money, Mississippi, but Gentry made up the story. The Tallahatchie Bridge, which spans the Tallahatchie River, collapsed in 1972, but was later rebuilt.Is Ode to Billy Joe based on a true story? ›
story. Tallahatchie Bridge that day in 1966.Why did Billy Joe McAllister jump off? ›
The most likely and saddest theory is that it was a stillborn baby, and Billie Joe's guilt over that death leads him to make his fatal dive.What is the Tallahatchie Bridge? ›
The bridge mentioned in “Ode To Billie Joe” was a real-life landmark which indeed crossed the Tallahatchie River. It was located near Money, Mississippi, twelve miles north of Bobbie Gentry's hometown of Greenwood.What happened to Billy Joe in the movie Ode to Billy Joe? ›
Gentry's song recounts the day when Billie Joe McAllister committed suicide by jumping off the Tallahatchie Bridge on Choctaw Ridge, Mississippi.Where is Choctaw Ridge? ›
Choctaw Ridge (164m/538ft a.s.l.) is a hill in the Piedmont-Southeast Coast in USA.
What day did Bobby Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge? ›
June 3 marks an iconic date in the country music world. On this date, Billie Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge in Leflore County and a song was made in his memory.Did Billy Joe Shaver shoot? ›
Country Music Outlaw Billy Joe Shaver Once Shot a Man in Waco But Was Confirmed Not Guilty. Billy Joe Shaver was one of the greatest songwriters to ever pick up a pen. More than that, he lived and breathed outlaw country music.What happened to Bobbie Gentry? ›
Gentry is alive and presumably well at age 76, living back in the South, where she grew up, but she pulled off the unthinkable in the early 1980s: She disappeared.Does Netflix have Ode to Billy Joe? ›
Rent Ode to Billy Joe (1976) on DVD and Blu-ray - DVD Netflix.How deep is the Tallahatchie River? ›
The river is 50 ft (15 m) deep with very sharp rocks. The river has historical significance due to the 1955 murder of Emmett Till, an African-American boy visiting from Chicago, who was brutally murdered by white men in Money, Mississippi, for allegedly whistling at a white woman.What was thrown off the bridge in Ode to Billy Joe? ›
“Everybody has a different guess about what was thrown off the bridge—flowers, a ring, even a baby. Anyone who hears the song can think what they want, but the real message of the song, if there must be a message, revolves around the nonchalant way the family talks about the suicide.Where is the famous Tallahatchie Bridge? ›
Greenwood, Mississippi: Tallahatchie Bridge.Where did Bobbie Gentry grow up? ›
Gentry lived in Greenwood, Mississippi, with her father for a few years and learned to play the guitar and banjo. At age 13, Gentry moved to Palm Springs, California, to live with her then-remarried mother.When did Bobbie Gentry disappear? ›
On April 29, 1982, Gentry (then age 39) vanished. There was no farewell tour, final album or note about her plans — the "Ode to Billie Joe" singer just quietly canceled all upcoming appearances and never stepped into the spotlight again.How old was Billy Joe Royal when he died? ›
Billy Joe Royal, a pop and country singer best known for the 1965 hit “Down in the Boondocks,” died on Tuesday at his home in Morehead City, N.C. He was 73.
Did Billy Joe Shaver get his fingers back? ›
Shaver took a job at a lumber mill to make ends meet. One day, his right (dominant) hand became caught in the machinery, and he lost the better part of two fingers and contracted a serious infection. He eventually recovered, and taught himself to play the guitar without those missing fingers.What is the movie for Billy Joe jumped off Tallahassee Bridge? ›
ODE TO BILLY JOE is a humerous and touching tale of events leading up to why "Billy Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge", as related in the Bobbie Gentry hit.What movie jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge? ›
Until Billy Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge; sparking a legend in story and song. This heartwarming family film about the tumult of teen romance is set in rural Mississippi and stars Robby Benson and Glynnis O'Connor as youngsters caught up in the dizzy beauty of first love.What is the name of the old Mississippi River bridge in Baton Rouge? ›
Description of bridge
1 It is commonly referred to as the Airline Highway Bridge after the local name for US 190. The bridge was completed in 1940 and is located on the northwest side of Baton Rouge, crossing the Mississippi River between East Baton Rouge and West Baton Rouge Parishes.
Money is the site of events leading to the 1955 lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till.Where is Tallahassee river? ›
Tallahatchie River, river rising in Tippah county, Mississippi, U.S., and flowing 230 miles (370 km) west and then south to join the Yalobusha River just north of Greenwood in Leflore county to form the Yazoo River.How does Billy Jo describe Bolsa and Sancho? ›
How does Billy Jo describe Bolsa and Sancho? As useless detectives.What key is Ode to Billy Joe in? ›
Ode to Billie Joe is written in the key of G.How old is Robby Benson? › How wealthy is the Choctaw tribe? ›
The Choctaw Nation is also the largest single employer in Durant. The nation's payroll is about $260 million per year, with total revenues from tribal businesses and governmental entities topping $1 billion.
Where do most Choctaw live today? ›
The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma is the largest of the three federally recognized bands of Choctaws and is the third largest federally recognized tribe in the United States. The Choctaw Nation's reservation covers nearly 11,000 square miles in southeastern Oklahoma.What tribe is Choctaw? ›
About the Choctaw Nation
The Choctaw Nation is the third-largest Indian nation in the United States, with over 200,000 tribal members and more than 11,000 employees. The first tribe over the Trail of Tears, historic boundaries are in the southeast corner of Oklahoma.
It's one of the most alluring and mysterious scenes in rock music: A family sits around a dinner table passing food as the mother casually relates that a young man, Billie Joe MacAllister, committed suicide by jumping off the Tallahatchie Bridge.What did Billy Joe Shaver say to the judge? ›
“You're still gonna write the song but with different lyrics,” the prosecutor Toben asked. Shaver and his lawyer objected to that comment and caused verbal outbursts by some of the observers in state District Judge Matt Johnson's courtroom.How much money is Billie Joe Armstrong worth? ›
What is Billy Joe Armstrong's net worth? Billie Joe Armstrong has a $75-million-dollar net worth. The punk rock band Green Day is where Armstrong is best known for singing lead, but he has also played in the groups Pinhead Gunpowder, The Coverups, Foxboro Hot Tubs, The Longshot, and The Network.What happened to Billy Coker? ›
Coker, 53, told the jury that the bullet went through his upper lip, knocked a tooth and a crown out of his mouth and then tore through his cheek and gums. It lodged in his neck, he said, where it remains. Coker said that besides losing some ability to taste and suffering occasional pain, he has recovered.What is the message of just the way you are by Billy Joel? ›
In “Just The Way You Are”, Billy Joel isn't telling his partner she can't change. He's just saying that she shouldn't feel the need to change solely to try and please him — he loves her just the way she is. If she wants to change for her own reasons, that's fine.Why did Billy Joe jump off the bridge in Ode to Billy Joe? ›
In 1976, a feature film, Ode To Billy Joe [sic], based on the song, was released to modest success. Billy Joe and Bobbie Lee (the narrator) are both white and their relationship is never consummated, but Billy Joe jumps off the bridge after a drunken homosexual encounter.What happens at the end of Ode to Billy Joe? ›
Like in Gentry's lyric, Billy Joe emerges from the backdrop of Chickasaw County quite memorably. And like in Gentry's lyric, his performance resists obvious interpretation. Soon after their encounter, Billy Joe jumps off the Tallahatchie Bridge and dies.
Where was the movie Ode to Billy Joe about? ›
In 1950s Mississippi, teenager Bobbie Lee Hartley navigates her blossoming hormones as she is courted by Billy Joe McAllister, who is headed for tragedy.What is the meaning of Billy Joel's We didn't start the fire? ›
Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire"
The rapid-fire delivery of the events spanning roughly fifty years represents the breakneck pace of progress and change in the 20th century, the almost inconceivable rate at which events unfurled in a short length of time.
The meaning of the song is that War needs to stop and that we should have hope that some day it will. The song explains that the world is a place that is not peaceful. Specifically, the people in the world do not get along and how their fighting doesn't stop.What does Billy Joel consider his best song? ›
- Scenes From An Italian Restaurant.
- She's Right On Time.
- You May Be Right.
- And So It Goes.
It turns out that in his inebriated state, he had sex with another man, later revealed to be his sawmill boss, Dewey Barksdale (James Best). After his intimate encounter with Barksdale, Billy Joe disappears for several days.Who jumped off the Tallahassee Bridge movie? ›
In the contract, Gentry had approval of characters and plot development. She also re-recorded the hit song for the film. “Now that I know why Billy Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge, I almost wish I didn't,” film critic Roger Ebert wrote in his July 7, 1976 film review.Why did Billy Joe McAllister jump off the bridge in the movie? ›
He rages in despair over what he considers an unnatural act, leading to his suicidal jump. At the end of the movie, Bobbie Lee throws flowers off the bridge for Billy Joe, just like in the song.What town was Billy Jack filmed in? ›
Filming began in Prescott, Arizona, in the fall of 1969, but the movie was not completed until 1971.What state was Billy Jack filmed in? ›
Laughlin, who scripted, produced and directed Billy Jack under a number of pseudonyms, shot the film in both Arizona and New Mexico.